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10 Tips for Cooking Tasty Meals on a Budget

10 Tips for Cooking Tasty Meals on a Budget

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The word “budget” often gets a bad rap, especially when it comes to cooking. When most of us think about the types of meals we can make on a tight budget, the odds are good that the ingredients that come to mind are pantry staples: foods that will help keep us full (like rice, pasta, or beans), cooked without much variation in color or flavor. But low-cost meals don’t have to be bland or monotonous — in fact, there are a number of affordable ways to make cheap meals delicious.

Click here to see the 10 Tips for Cooking Tasty Meals on a Budget

One of the best ways to cut down on food costs without sacrificing flavor is to look at your shopping habits. Saving money on some basic staples at the supermarket can free up additional funds for a few high-end ingredients that help make meals delicious. If you don’t already, check your store’s circular to see what’s on sale, take advantage of coupons, and buy in bulk when you can. The amount of time you’ll spend looking for deals each week is insignificant when compared with your potential savings. If you save $50 in any given week, use $10 of that money to buy a special ingredient like a fancy wedge of cheese or a small bottle of good quality olive oil. You’ll still save $40, and you’ll have one nice ingredient that you can use to elevate your meals for several weeks.

You should also know how to plan your weekly menu for even more savings. When you buy bulk ingredients, choose ones that are easy to transform and simple to use in multiple ways during any given week. If your store has sweet potatoes on sale, for example, stock up. Roast some sweet potatoes and add them to salads for a hearty and healthy brown-bag lunch, cut sweet potatoes into wedges and sprinkle them with curry powder or Chinese five-spice blend for a flavorful side dish, and use any leftovers to make a chorizo and sweet potato hash on Saturday morning. Experiment with seasonings and cooking techniques to take the monotony out of using an ingredient more than once during the week.

Looking for even more ways to save money without sacrificing flavor? We’ve rounded up 10 low- to no-cost ways you can amp up the flavor of budget meals.

One of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to build flavor in a dish is to let the ingredients in your pan start to brown — as they do, they’ll generate a plethora of delicious flavors. Whether you’re sautéing sliced onions or searing chicken thighs, the flavors of most foods are enhanced when you let them brown. The amount of color that you want depends upon your personal taste and the recipe. Make sure you read on to learn how to deglaze the pan and create a flavorful sauce after letting these ingredients brown.

Whether you have lemons, limes, oranges, or grapefruit on hand, citrus can contribute a bright and refreshing flavor to whatever you’re cooking. A squeeze of fresh citrus juice is great in marinades, soups, and sauces, and freshly grated citrus zest can perk up everything from biscuit dough to plates of pasta.

Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal's Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.

Meal Prep On A Budget: Spend $25 On Food This Week (Free Meal Plan)

You can absolutely meal prep on a budget whether you’re trying to cut down expenses or money is just really tight right now.

Saving money is the main reason I started meal prepping in 2014, just after graduating from college and moving to NYC. I didn’t live with my parents after college, as many do these days, so I was in for a rude awakening when I realized how dangerously expensive my eating habits were (lots of takeout meals!).

Enter: meal prep. Since then, I’ve used meal prepping to save money and keep food expenses in check, with the goal of always spending below my means.

Meal prep on a budget was helpful for me while trying to build an emergency fund, but it can be helpful in so many other situations. Whether you’re between jobs, dealing with an emergency situation or cooking when you’ve just moved into a new place when your pantry is empty, this guide will come in handy.

alt="Katy Rose" />by Katy Rose

We’ve collected 10 recipes to get you through to payday, using cheaper cuts of meat, vegetables and lots of dried goods from the back of the cupboard. Plus, we added two dessert recipes at the end.

When we’re scratching in the back of the pantry, there are bound to be a few bags of pasta languishing in the back. Make this easy chicken and spinach pasta faster than you can say “debit orders”.

Looking for a high fibre and high protein meal? Try this bowl of brown rice, red kidney beans and poached eggs.

Mayonnaise chicken is a South African classic. Make this easy, budget-friendly meal with only a few ingredients. The family will love it.

Don’t forget the veg! We love the broccoli chicken casserole for its easy one-dish clean-up.

Maybe you have some sausages in the bottom of the freezer? This pork banger one-pan wonder is, well, a wonder:

This easy creamy tomato and spinach penne will be done in minutes!

This vegetarian lasagne is comforting, filling and makes for excellent lunchbox leftovers:

Zola Nene’s chicken and butternut roast is an easy way to feed a crowd:

If you really can’t stand the thought of cooking, here are 19 ways to eat out on a budget!

5 Simple Habits That Help Me Cook on a Budget

I have a three-pronged approach to cooking: cook good food, cook often, and cook within my budget. The first two are easy for me the budget is definitely the tough part. What made a budget more manageable for me was developing small habits that are sustainable and easy to stick with.

Here are the five essential habits that keep me cooking within my budget. They are simple, but — like the grocery habits we talked about last week — these are the bedrock of sticking to a budget. Are these the ones you practice too?

1. Embrace meal planning.

Planning meals and snacks ahead is essential. We talk all the time about having a mindful plan for your meals and your groceries, and for good reason — it’s so simple, yet the payoff is huge. When you have a plan, you’ll cook smarter, create more focused shopping lists, and have an easier time staying within your budget.

2. Cook with what’s in season.

I love cooking with fresh produce as much as I can, but there are certain times when it just doesn’t make sense — like cooking asparagus in the middle of February. While I may be able to track it down at the grocery store, it’s going to be pricier than when it’s in season, and it’s probably not going to taste as good. Stick with using in-season produce. It’s readily available and usually less expensive. (And “in season” doesn’t just apply to produce — we have a new grocery column launching soon that’s going to divulge perhaps surprising tips on other things that also have seasons at the grocery store.)

More on the Food We Splurge (and Save) On: Food Budgeting: When to Splurge, When to Save

Use Cheaper, Tougher Cuts of Meat

Make stews with beef chuck roasts or pork shoulders. Low and slow braising completely tenderizes the meat, and the flavor is amazing. You can also brown a rump roast on high heat and then lower the heat for low slow cooking for roast beef.

USDA Food and Nutrition Information Center
National Agricultural Library
[email protected]

National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs

This content is provided by the NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA). NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure it is accurate and up to date.

Content reviewed: April 30, 2019

How to Save on Your Food & Beverage Expenses

1. Drink Tap Water, Not Bottled Water

Bottled water is a multibillion-dollar industry, thanks to what could be the greatest marketing hoax ever perpetrated by beverage corporations.

Let’s get a few facts straight about bottled water versus tap water:

  • Bottled water isn’t inherently safer — more than half of the bottled waters sold are actually tap water.
  • Bottled water creates millions of tons of plastic garbage every year.
  • Bottled water costs roughly 2,000 times as much as tap water on a per-ounce basis.

If you don’t like the taste of your local water, install a filter on your tap or use a filter pitcher. You can put the pitcher in the fridge if you prefer chilled drinking water. For water on the go, buy a reusable water bottle. Some even come with built-in filters.

If you currently buy bottled water, stop. Period.

2. Stop Drinking Sweetened Beverages

Sodas, iced teas, and other sweetened beverages are expensive and unhealthy. So stop wasting money on something that shortens your life expectancy.

Unsurprisingly, a 2019 report by the American Diabetes Association found a direct link between consumption of sweetened beverages and Type 2 diabetes. Yet the average U.S. household spends thousands of dollars per year on soft drinks, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Among households given food stamps, sweetened beverages make up the second-highest grocery expense.

Want to be both richer and healthier? Cut out sweetened beverages.

3. Buy Disposables in Bulk

Not everything on your grocery list makes for good bulk shopping. In fact, specifically avoid buying these items in bulk.

But you can buy certain items at a discount in bulk, and they don’t go bad. I buy paper towels, toilet paper, trash bags, zip-close bags, certain cleaning supplies, and other household disposables in bulk. I also buy certain nonperishable foods, such as canned goods, in bulk.

These items won’t expire. The only reason not to buy them at a bulk discount is if you have limitations on your storage space.

4. Batch Your Meals

One way to save time and money is to cook all your meals for the week in one single cooking session. You can freeze the more perishable meals and throw the others in the fridge to reheat at your leisure.

This saves you time and money in several ways. You can bake several dishes simultaneously in the oven, reducing energy usage and cooking time. And you can cook with the same perishable ingredients in several dishes, so nothing goes to waste.

Start brainstorming meals you can batch and freeze in advance to reduce food waste and save energy, money, and time.

Pro tip: Make sure you use apps like Fetch Rewards and Ibotta when you go grocery shopping. Simply scan your receipts and you’ll earn cash back on certain items.

5. Swap Bulk Meals with Friends

Want to make your food batching even easier?

Instead of cooking a half-dozen distinct meals for the week, cook one giant batch of the same meal. Then split it into Tupperware containers and swap them with a few friends or neighbors who do the same.

For example, say you make a large batch of lasagna. Your friends make a Thai curry dish, a mushroom and bacon chicken dish, a Cajun étoufée dish, and a braised lamb shank dish. Each of you only has to cook one meal, but you each walk away with five unique meals.

It’s fast, efficient, and helps you reduce the number of ingredients you need to buy. Best of all, it keeps your meals interesting, exposes you to new dishes, and diversifies your diet beyond your go-to recipes.

6. Get Creative with Your Pressure Cooker or Slow Cooker

You’d be surprised at the number of ways your slow cooker or pressure cooker can save you money.

First, these appliances work great for making those bulk, batched meals to share. They also save you time, as you often just throw the ingredients in before leaving for work in the morning, and by the time you arrive home, voila! Your dinner’s ready and waiting.

They don’t release heat in your kitchen like an oven might, which is a nice perk in the summertime. You don’t have to crank your air conditioning to combat the heat emanating from your slow cooker or pressure cooker.

Slow cookers and pressure cookers also let you cook outstanding meals with cheaper ingredients. For example, instead of buying expensive filet mignon cuts, you can buy cheaper short rib or chuck cuts and slow-cook them for a tender, juicy end result. Likewise, you can use a pressure cooker to soften and cook dry beans bought in bulk, rather than purchasing the more expensive canned beans.

Best of all, you don’t need separate appliances. Try the Instant Pot for a combination slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, and sauté pan.

7. Learn to Make & Pair Your 20 Favorite Meals

A few months ago, I took my wife to an upscale restaurant to celebrate her birthday. She ordered a braised short rib served with gorgonzola polenta, and we shared a bottle of Chilean cabernet. She raved that it was one of the best meals she ever had — and started looking for excuses for when we could go back to this pricey restaurant.

As the fiscal hawk in our marriage, I knew we couldn’t go back any time soon if we didn’t want a broken budget. So I learned how to make the meal myself, and picked up the same bottle of wine at the store for a quarter of the restaurant’s price.

It’s a model I’ve followed repeatedly. Whenever I come across a meal I love, I learn how to make it. And I’m no whiz in the kitchen. I follow simplified recipes and keep it as easy as possible.

I now know how to make my top 20 favorite meals, as well as what wines pair well with them. We can stay in on a Friday night and enjoy a gourmet meal for a fraction of the price we’d pay for it at a restaurant, and it tastes just as good.

If you’re new to cooking, start with extremely simple recipes even college students can manage. From there, you can branch out. Remember, the hardest part of cooking is simply getting comfortable with the basics.

8. Learn to Make Healthy Versions of Favorite Snacks

People spend a surprising amount of money on snack food. And like sweetened beverages, these foods are nearly all unhealthy.

I recently bought a food processor to help me make my three favorite dips: salsa, guacamole, and hummus. All three recipes are extremely easy and fast, taste better than store-bought alternatives, and cost a quarter of the price I would pay at the store.

Check out the Hamilton Beach 10-Cup Food Processor for an affordable option under $50 if you don’t already own a food processor, and save money and eat healthier with delicious homemade snacks.

9. Shop for Groceries on Weekdays

Grocery stores are crowded on weekends, which is reason enough to shop on weekdays. But it’s also more expensive to shop on weekends. A Today Show report found that various food and beverage items cost measurably less during the week.

Because many grocery stores run weekly offers on a Wednesday-to-Wednesday schedule, Wednesdays often make the best day to go grocery shopping to capitalize on new deals before they sell out. Often, employees can be persuaded to honor last week’s deals as well on Wednesdays, if you ask them nicely.

10. Stop Meeting Friends at Commercial Venues

Restaurants and bars mark their products up two to four times on average. Equally problematic, restaurant food is typically less healthy than home cooking. To maximize profits, restaurants cook with cheaper, less healthy ingredients. Their goal usually isn’t to cook healthy food — it’s to cook food that tastes good.

You’d be amazed at just how much eating out at restaurants costs you over the course of a year. It’s even worse if you add in your annual bar tab.

One of the best ways to save money on food and beverages is to go out to restaurants and bars less. Start meeting up with your friends and family members at someone’s home, at parks, at beaches, or anywhere else you can think of that isn’t a for-profit business. Host a game night or a potluck. Keep more of your money in your pocket and less in the profit margins of commercial businesses.

11. Take Advantage of Specials When You Must Go Out

Most of us aren’t ready to give up restaurants and bars entirely. So when you want to get out of the house, visit establishments with specials.

When I was a young, single man living in a vibrant downtown neighborhood, I kept a spreadsheet of nightly specials and happy hour specials for all the restaurants and bars within walking distance. It became a running joke among my friends, who laughed at the nerdiness of it — but then texted me every time they wanted to go out to ask about who had specials that night.

You don’t have to go quite as far as I did, but you should keep a pulse on your favorite establishments’ specials. Ask about any nightly specials, happy hour deals, or other recurring bargains. Then plan accordingly to save money eating out at restaurants when your discipline cracks and you break your no-commercial-dining rule.

12. Plan Next Week’s Meals in Advance

Before going grocery shopping each week, my wife and I plan out exactly what meals we’ll make for every single meal of the following week. I then spend 60 seconds inventorying which ingredients we already have and which ingredients we need.

That’s my grocery list. And that’s all I buy.

No extras. No impulse buys. That’s how grocery stores make their best profits: they put nonessential, high-margin items where you’re sure to see them to tempt you into spending more than you planned. They don’t need to put chicken breasts or milk next to the cash register. They know you’ll go out of your way to find them in the back. What they do put next to the cash register are candy bars, tabloids, and other items not on your list.

The best way to save money on groceries is the simplest: plan your meals, and stick to your list.

13. Don’t Shop on an Empty Stomach

You’re far more susceptible to those impulse purchases when you’re hungry. It’s old advice, but it’s good advice: Never shop for groceries on an empty stomach.

If your schedule doesn’t allow you to shop after eating a large meal, eat a healthy snack before you go shopping. It’s that simple.

14. Order Groceries Online

Alternatively, order your groceries online instead. That way, you aren’t tempted to buy items you don’t need.

Besides, most people end up buying the same two dozen groceries over and over again. Online grocery services like Instacart make this easy on you by letting you save favorite items and view previous orders.

And with grocery delivery, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your living room.

15. Try Generic Brands

For the record, you should always buy generic versions of prescription and over-the-counter drugs if your doctor OKs it. They all have the same active ingredient, and they nearly always have the same inactive ingredients too.

As for generic brand foods, they’re a mixed bag. Some are identical to name-brand foods and may even be manufactured in the same food processing plant. The only difference is the packaging.

Others are legitimately different products. Some taste just as good or better than the original, while others taste inferior.

But you don’t know until you try them.

The next time you shop for groceries, choose to buy generic or store-brand foods and goods whenever available. Some you’ll like others you won’t. Next time, you can stick with the ones you like and start shaving money off your grocery bill.

16. Always Pack Your Own Lunch

I always aim to make enough food at dinner for our family to have enough leftovers for lunch the next day. It saves money, it’s efficient, and I don’t have to pack a brown bag lunch in the morning — I just grab a Tupperware container and go.

Meals out don’t just include restaurants with white linen tabletops. That lunch out with coworkers every day adds up, and quickly. As a thought experiment, think of the total cost of your last lunch out. How much did you spend? Ten dollars? Twenty?

Compare that to the pennies it would have cost you to simply make a larger portion at dinner the night before.

Paying someone else to make your food for you constitutes an entertainment expense, not a food expense. Stop justifying your lunches out and pack your own lunch. It’s healthier and dramatically cheaper.

17. Eat Less Meat

Despite being an avid carnivore, I have to reluctantly acknowledge the vegetarians’ point that plant-based foods are cheaper, healthier, and have less environmental impact on a per-calorie basis.

If you’ve been toying with the idea of becoming a vegetarian, review the benefits and challenges. Now might be the perfect time to try it for a month.

If, like me, you have no intention of giving up meat, you can at least try eating less of it. Try slimming down your meat portion sizes and scaling up your fruit and vegetable portions. For example, I set aside bacon and eggs as a treat for weekend mornings. During the week, I start every day with a bowl of low-fat yogurt with nuts, fruits, and homemade granola.

18. Buy Meat Near Its Sell-By Date

Most grocery stores have a special section for meats nearing their sell-by date. Often these meats sell for 50 cents on the dollar.

If you’ve been on a strict grocery budget that doesn’t include luxuries like filet mignon, ribeyes, or lamb tenderloin, check the sale section. Even if you don’t plan to eat it that same day, in most cases, these meats freeze well and keep for months to come.

19. Buy Frozen Fruits & Vegetables When in Doubt

Like meats, fresh fruits and vegetables spoil relatively quickly. They make up a huge percentage of the 30% to 40% of the American food supply that goes to waste.

If you have specific plans to cook with a fruit or vegetable within the next day or two, by all means, buy the fresh stuff. It tastes better, and many people believe it’s healthier.

But if you don’t have specific plans to cook with or eat that fruit or vegetable immediately, buy a frozen bag instead. You can open it at your leisure, use some, and put the rest back in the freezer to use another day.

20. Buy Spices in Bulk

When you buy spices at the grocery store, do you buy them in the fancy little glass shakers? Or do you buy them in plastic baggies?

The difference in pricing between spices in upscale, retail packaging and spices sold wholesale is shocking —often 50% or greater. If you’re wondering where you’ll get the shakers,or how you’ll label them, stop wondering and buy a 14-pack of glass spice shakers complete with labels for under $20.

I now buy all my spices in bulk, often at farmers markets, where they’re fresher and cost far less than what the grocery chains charge.

21. Grow Your Own Vegetables & Herbs

If you have a yard, devoting a small section to growing vegetables or herbs can make for a fun hobby. You get to grow them, eat them, give them as gifts, or even can them.

Even if you live in an apartment, you can still grow herbs in a container garden. I keep a small tabletop basil plant. True cooking enthusiasts can create a “living wall” of small potted herbs to pluck fresh as they need them.

22. Buy Wine & Liquor in Bulk During Periodic Sales

In my last hometown, I bought all of my wine and liquor on exactly four occasions throughout the year.

Two of the largest liquor stores in the area each had a semi-annual sale. One was a buy-one-get-one 50% off sale, and the other was an even more intriguing concept: Every bottle in the store was marked up only $1 over the store’s wholesale cost. As a result, I bought all my wine and liquor for the entire year at a discount of roughly 25%.

Wine and liquor are ideal for buying in bulk because they don’t go bad, at least not for several years. I kept a wine cellar with hundreds of bottles in it, so no matter what I cooked, I always had the perfect wine to pair with it.

23. Order Alcohol Online Through Drizly

Another option for saving money on your liquor tab is Drizly. They maintain a database of local liquor stores all over the country, along with their inventory and pricing. You can find the lowest prices near you and have your order delivered to your home or office.

Word to the wise: Have it delivered it to your office unless you live in a building with a doorman who can sign for you. The last thing you want is your case of upscale wine cooking in the hot sun or freezing solid on your porch.

24. Find Local BYOB Restaurants

Restaurants typically mark up their wines and alcoholic beverages by three or four times retail pricing. That $20 bottle of Syrah you like can easily spike to $80 on a restaurant’s wine list.

Instead, research local restaurants with a bring-your-own-bottle policy. There aren’t many in most markets, so it often takes some digging to find them. But it’s worth it.

Rather than blowing $60 in markup on that Syrah, you pay a $6 corkage fee for them to open it for you. Best of all, you get to bring exactly what you like to drink, rather than relying on the restaurant’s beer or wine selection.

25. Explore Second Label Wines

Bordeaux has a long history of “second label” wines: bottles that don’t represent a major chateau’s absolute best grapes but still taste great.

They sell for significantly less than the chateaus’ premiere wines, often with little difference in perceptible taste. In fact, you may not be able to notice any difference in taste at all. Or perhaps the difference is in a characteristic that you don’t care about. For example, the second label wine might have slightly less complexity but be just as smooth or even smoother.

Find out more about second label wines on The Wine Cellar Insider.

26. Do A Blind Taste Test at Home

Wine and liquor rankings are subjective. So subjective, in fact, that some studies have found even experts have trouble telling cheap wines from expensive bottles.

Grab some like-paletted friends and host your own wine or whiskey tasting, but with a twist: It must be double-blind like a proper scientific experiment.

Have someone not participating in the tasting bag each bottle and number them. Then go through and taste each, keeping notes about how you liked each numbered bottle.

When you’ve tried them all and reveal the bottles, I guarantee you’ll be surprised. I have been every time I’ve done a blind tasting. And as part of the surprise, you’ll find several inexpensive bottles you liked, along with some more expensive bottles that failed to impress without the benefit of their reputations.

27. Try Before You Buy at Public Tastings

Another way to ensure you actually like what you buy is to attend public tastings. Just beware — most are run by marketing reps who are trying to sell you the bottles they’re pouring.

Their job gets easier the more they pour for you. By the end of a lengthy tasting, you shouldn’t be making purchase decisions. So leave your credit card at home, and just bring however much cash you plan to spend on the bottles you liked.

Also bring a notepad, and write down the names of the bottles you liked. You can buy them in bulk at the next big semi-annual sale.

28. Preserve Half-Drunk Bottles

I love a glass of wine with dinner, but not the full four or five glasses of wine contained in a single bottle. That presents a problem because wine oxidizes within a day or two and loses its freshness and flavor.

For a long time, I struggled with that fact. I’d avoid opening wines even though I would have loved a glass, or I would open a bottle with my wife and feel obliged to finish it so as not to waste it.

Then I discovered two wine preservation systems. The first is vacuum pumps, which pull all the air out of the bottle to minimize oxygen exposure. They’re cheap, and they work pretty well. Try this combination wine aerator and wine vacuum pack from Barvivo.

The second option involves spraying an inert gas into the wine bottle before recorking it. The gas is heavier than oxygen, so it blankets the surface of the wine and prevents exposure to oxygen. It’s just as affordable as a vacuum pump and works even better, in my opinion. Check out Private Preserve as an affordable wine preservation gas.

29. Stop Buying Coffee at Coffee Shops

If you spend $5 every day on a latte, that comes to roughly $150 per month, compared to roughly $10 a month for homemade coffee.

Coffee snobs say it tastes better at the coffee shop, but with today’s gourmet home coffee recipes and coffee makers, that’s simply a justification. People often love going to coffee shops for other reasons, whether it’s laziness, for a social outing with friends, or because they just like the atmosphere.

Start making your coffee at home, and put yourself on a strict coffee budget. There’s nothing wrong with grabbing a coffee with friends on a Saturday morning, but be clear that it’s an entertainment expense, and budget for it accordingly.

30. Freeze Leftover Coffee & Wine

When my wife and I have leftover coffee or wine, but not enough to bother saving to drink, we freeze it in an ice cube tray.

It’s one of the cleverer ideas I’ve stumbled across online in recent years. Many recipes call for wine, but I’m loath to part with wine I’m drinking in the moment. The solution: wine ice cubes.

Coffee ice cubes serve a different purpose, helping you create the perfect iced coffee. Watered-down iced coffee is the worst, but by using coffee ice cubes, you keep it cool without diluting it.

Key to Success: A Balanced Diet | Do's and Don'ts

Experts suggest that a wholesome diet should comprise a daily dose of anti-oxidants, protein, iron, fibre, calcium, Vitamin D and many other essential nutrients. This would require you to consume dry fruits, green leafy vegetables, fish, lentils, fruits, nuts, dairy and poultry items - all divided in small meals, scattered throughout the day. Vegetarians can substitute non-vegetarian sources of nutrients with foods like soy, mushrooms, tofu, cottage cheese and so on. Apart from these, following points should also be kept in mind.

- Regular and sufficient water intake

- Avoiding tobacco and alcohol

- Avoiding junk and processed food items

- Regular and proper breakfast

- Small regular meals instead of three heavy ones

Stuck on a Diet?

For those who think that following some kind of a special diet regime or a weight-loss programme is imperative, make sure that you do it right and stick to it till the very end. According to a Delhi-based weight management expert, Dr. Gargi Sharma, "Before taking on a weight-loss program, there are certain things you should know. The first is your Body Mass Index or BMI." This is followed by an assessment of the kind of body type you have and the 'perfect' diet programme or exercise regime to suit you the best.

In addition to this, keep the following in mind:

- Get a tailor-made programme (a combination of customised diet and exercise plan) to suit your requirements and your body type.

- Make your regime an exciting, satisfying and flexible one, not the one based on abstinence which will make it tedious and hard to follow.

And, for those who think that being on a diet is all about giving up on all the deliciousness in life, think again. We have put together some of the easiest, simplest and yummiest of preparations that will make healthy eating loads of fun.

Growing Vegetables in Pots

This week in our gardening series, I’m going to share the plans my son and I have for doing some container gardening at our house. Growing up on a farm, I helped my mom with our garden. And one year I even planned the garden out and had it as a 4-H project. Since that … Continue reading Growing Vegetables in Pots

Herb Gardening in Small Spaces

Last week we heard about our friend Jill’s experience with gardening throughout her life. She shared some wonderful tips for planning a garden and using the information on seed packets to help you make decisions. I would like to share a slightly different perspective. I live in a small house and I do not have … Continue reading Herb Gardening in Small Spaces

How To Cook 9 Meals For 2 On $20 In NYC

June, Delish's senior food producer and resident budget eats expert, set out to cook as many meals as she could for $20. Watch to see how she fared&mdashand catch the rest of her series Budget Eats on YouTube!

I don't know how I managed to do this to myself, but I did. Feeling extremely exhausted after filming episodes of Budget Eats where I had $25 to spend, Julia and I decided we would lower the budget to $20 this time. Less money means fewer ingredients means fewer recipes means less work for me&mdashright? Wrong. So wrong.

How did I end up making 9 meals&mdashplus a smoothie, plus a snack&mdashand still wind up with a whole stash of red lentils, a handful of tortillas, and five mandarins left over by the time Friday rolled around?? It felt like a cruel joke that I'd played on myself somehow!

The star ingredient of this round was definitely a two-pound bag of wheat berries I picked up for $1.99. While roaming the aisles at lightning speed because it was the day before a snowstorm and half the people in the city seemed like they thought they might starve if they didn't stock up for a month, my eyes landed on a bag that I thought was filled with golden-hued grains of rice. It turned out to be polished grains of durum wheat, Triticum durum, otherwise known as "pasta wheat" because it's often used in&mdashyou guessed it&mdashmanufacturing pasta.

I used it in seven dishes, sometimes to stand in for other grains I was more familiar with: a fried "rice," a "rice" pudding, a "farro" salad, a khichdi, two bowtie pasta numbers, a stack of tomato-flavored tortillas. Some of these utilized the wheat in their purchased berry form, and some required me to blitz the berries into a flour so I could manipulate it into a dough. The grains had a very pleasing, bouncy, al dente texture to them that remained even after long cooking times the flour presented forth a naturally sweet flavor that shined through all the applications. All of them turned out super delicious.

Without further ado, here are my favorite recipes from this week of budget eats.

Jicama Slaw

To be honest, this episode started off rough. The first night, I made some salmon tacos that I had hoped would be one of the highlights of the week, but gosh darn it, they just weren't that good.

I overcooked the salmon trying to crisp up the pieces of fish skin, then underestimated the greasiness of salmon fat, then committed the fatal mistake of waiting too long before eating the food (because who has time to eat the food when you have to shoot it from four different angles for camera first??)&mdashso by the time Aaron tasted it, the whole thing was just. no good. While edible, the tortillas were stale, the fish was cold, the flavors unsatisfying against the backdrop of my bitter disappointment.

But the bright spot was the jicama salad, which was perfectly crisp, fresh, light but seasoned just right with raw onions, spicy jalapeños, sweet carrots, fragrant cilantro stems, along with juicy mandarins and spiky vinegar. Aaron said that this salad would've made a great meal on its own, a comment that inspired my salmon jicama wheat salad on Wednesday, a riff off of Lena's farro salad.

Sweet Potato Butternut Wheat Berry Pudding

If you love sweet and creamy rice pudding, I think you'll love durum wheat pudding. And if you have a fear overcooking rice, know that that won't happen with wheat berries: They retain their chewy nature even after almost one hour of simmering away on the stove. By using my $1 can of evaporated milk, the concentrated levels of lactose (milk sugars) meant I didn't have have to add a whole lot of sugar to make this treat sweet, especially with the presence of sweet potato, butternut squash, and cinnamon.

Despite this being more of a dessert than a savory main, Aaron and I both loved eating a nice, big, hot bowl of this comfort food for dinner. We both went back for seconds before I fridged the leftovers, which became a nice tall, cold glass of thick horchata-esque shake two mornings after, blended until smooth with ice.

Canned Tomato Chilaquiles With Jalapeño Salsa And Butternut "Crema"

Oh man, was this a spicy number. I wanted to treat Aaron to one super-spicy dish and truly succeeded in that mission while simultaneously bringing unforeseen destruction to my own digestive system. By using ground chile, gochugaru, sambal oelek, black pepper, and smoked paprika in addition to fresh jalapeños, mere mortals stood no chance surviving eating this dish.

. Which is to say, I died while eating this dish, and then died again in the evening after eating this dish. To calm down the heat ravaging through my entire being, I cheated and dolloped on some expired sour cream that was floating in the purgatory of my fridge. Tasting creamy dairy was like inhaling the breath of God, a taste of cooling salvation from the fiery hells of my own construction.

Aaron said it was fine. I might or might not have cried.

Salmon Broth Minestrone With Eggless Farfalle

Lest you be deceived, there is no actual salmon meat in this soup. Clocking in at about $1.58 for two servings, this dish only used salmon broth that I'd extracted by boiling water with the salmon bones that remained after I'd already stripped the scraps of salmon meat off them.

I threw in chunks of veggies that remained from the wreckage of previous recipes, and to bulk it up, added in some cute homemade bowtie pasta made with only ground durum wheat berries and salt and water&mdashno eggs.

Boiling the fresh, rustic noodles straight in the broth gave the soup a slightly viscous, silky mouthfeel and Aaron proclaimed it reminded him of the best canned soup memories from childhood. I'll take it.

Sweet Potato Hummus Wrap With Homemade Durum Tortillas

Aaron had been asking for sweet potato fries all week, so I finally decided to make his dreams come true on Friday. Instead of deep-frying them, I brushed shoestring cuts of sweet potato (skin-on, for more fiber) with a little bit of oil, sprinkled on salt and pepper, and baked at 375° for 30 minutes, turning and flipping halfway through.

To make it a meal, I made a super garlicky (with three variations of garlic in it! Roasted! Raw! Fried!) lentil hummus and four large durum tortillas tinged with a bit of tomato (for color! And flavor!) and served it as a wrap.

They were very good. Aaron didn't give it a perfect score but what are numbers worth? He ate three of them, and I happily let him have them. I guess you can call that love.

Homemade Baked Tortilla Chips And Salsa

When it comes to snacking, there are few things better than hot tortilla chips and fresh, cool salsa. While the fried version is way more satisfying, the baked ones come together with minimal effort and a far less intimidating clean-up.

I've linked Makinze's homemade salsa above, which uses roasted jalapeños, tomatoes, and onions for smokier flavors. If you're short on time and energy like I was, a bare-bones salsa can come together in just 5 minutes or under: three plum tomatoes (I used canned), one jalapeño (or half if yours were as big as mine were), ¼ large onion, 1 clove of garlic, 2 teaspoons vinegar (or a squeeze of lime), plus salt to taste. Roughly give everything a chop, whizz it all up in a food processor until your desired chunkiness, and let's eat!

Bonus Snack: Roasted Salmon Bones

Now, I'm not recommending you do this, because it is a potential choking hazard, but if you do decide to roast salmon bones until they are golden and crispy, you just might be looking at the most dangerous but most delicious #trashfood snack of all time. It takes about 30 minutes in a 350° oven. Cheers. Please be careful. Please don't be reckless like I am.


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